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Google Display Network

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

What is it?

We’ll begin with the Google Display Network, or GDN as it’s known. The Google Display Network is a good starting point because it’s a low-cost mass reach channel with great targeting options. The Google Display Network or GDN is a display advertising channel that allows advertisers to serve display ads to their target audiences using Google Ads.

Google Ads is Google’s ad serving product where you do search and video and display. This is the display functionality of Google Ads itself. The GDN allows advertisers to connect with customers and potential customers using text, using image, using rich media, using video created on YouTube.

It reaches millions of websites. And the expansiveness of this network means that you can drive your awareness out to different locations at different times for a relatively low-cost investment compared to other channels. It can help you reach consumers when they’re browsing websites, reading the news, reading content that’s related to your ads or related to your product.

The connection between the content they’re reading and your ad will, it’s hoped, will drive a bit of awareness, or connection, or interest, or just begin the journey through the top-funnel activity. And we can also target people on lifestyles. We can look at people based on their interest, based on the types of websites they look at, based on the content within the websites. We can retarget them.

We can also select specific placements. So, we might find that there is a specific website that we do want to target on the GDN, and we can do that. Specific website targeting is not solely associated with premium buys, you can also do on the GDN. It tends to be in lower quality ad formats or ad units, but still the option is there.


These are the benefits of the Google Display Network:

  • Brand awareness: Like any display, it does allow for brand awareness.
  • Drive customer interest/intent: It can drive back consumer intent or interest in the product.
  • Remarketing: Remarketing is quite powerful on the GDN because there is an integration with Google Analytics. So, we can remarket to people not only on pages that they’ve looked on your website, but the type of activity that they’ve undertaken on your websites. So how long they might have spent, if they are repeat customers, if they came from a certain channel. So, the type of remarketing that Google Analytics allows you to build can be easily transferred to the Google Display Network. It’s not able to be transferred to any other network. So, there is a USP associated with Google Analytics retargeting and the GDN.
  • Free impressions: Unlike the CPM-based advertising where you pay for an impression, on the Google Display Network, you don’t. You only pay if they click through. So, your impressions are actually free. However, you will pay if someone clicks through, but we’re happy to pay because if they’ve clicked through, it shows that they have a higher level of intent than someone who just looks at our ad. They’ve not only looked at our ad, but they’ve decided to move to the next stage and go to the landing page. Our impressions are ultimately free and our awareness piece gets the benefit of that.
  • Measurable, accountable, flexible: It’s quite measurable, it’s countable, and it’s flexible. With traditional display, if you have an ad up there, your ad must be up there, it’s printed, it’s made, and it’s on the billboard or whatever like that. With digital display, your ad could be swapped out very easily. So, that flexibility allows you to chop and change in campaign. And if something must change very quickly, it can happen at a turnaround time based on your creative outputs.
  • Multiple ad types: That brings us on to the different ad types that are available to us. Because the Google Suite involves YouTube and a variety of different ad formats, it’s a highly flexible option for us.


The main drawback is that it is very specific in things like file size. So, while the format and the messaging can be quite creative, the file size is limited to 150kb. And that gives us a limited scope for highly creative options. We can’t do certain things simply because the files can’t be that big. And as a result, the placements that tend to sign up to the Google Display Network can’t command those premium prices, so sometimes we do get shown on less impactful and lower value placements as a result. And because it’s such a wide-reaching net, your expectation has to be managed in such a sense that your results don’t get skewed beyond what you actually expected.

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Cathal Melinn

Cathal Melinn is a well-known digital marketing director, commercial analyst, and ecommerce specialist with over 15 years’ experience.

Cathal is a respected international conference speaker, course lecturer, and digital trainer. He specialises in driving complete understanding from students across a number of digital marketing disciplines including: paid and organic search (PPC and SEO), analytics, strategy and planning, social media, reporting, and optimisition.  Cathal works with digital professionals in over 80 countries and teaches at all levels of experience from beginner to advanced.

Alongside his training and course work, Cathal runs his own digital marketing agency and is considered an analytics and revenue generating guru - at enterprise level. He has extensive local and international experience working with top B2B and B2C brands across multiple industries.

Over his career, Cathal has worked client-Side, in digital marketing agencies and media owners with brands including HSBC, Amazon, Apple, Red Bull, Dell, Vodafone, Compare the Market, Aer Lingus, and Expedia.

He can be reached on LinkedIn here.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

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    Display Advertising
    Cathal Melinn
    Skills Expert

    This module introduces the key concepts involved in display advertising. It covers the advantages of different types of display platforms and demonstrates how to set up a display advertising campaign. It also explores the key considerations for targeting and bidding in a display advertising campaign, and how to report on and optimize campaign performance.